The Business Council of Australia today welcomed the release of the Dawson Report on the Trade Practices Act and its administration.
BCA President, Dr John Schubert, said if the report’s recommendations are implemented, Australia will be better placed to compete economically with the rest of the world.
Dr Schubert said the BCA was pleased that key weaknesses which the council had identified with the Act and its administration had been addressed by the review.
“While not all of the BCA’s proposed reforms have led to specific recommendations, the overall outcome addresses the range of issues and concerns raised by various interests during the course of the review,” Dr Schubert said.
The BCA has argued strongly for changes to improve the merger approval process and to increase the governance and accountability of the ACCC.
The BCA is pleased that the Dawson Committee has recommended a media code of conduct and that companies be allowed to take merger proposals directly to the Competition Tribunal.
It is disappointed, however, that its proposals for a board and inspector-general to oversight the ACCC have not been supported by the committee.
The BCA had strongly argued that the governance and accountability of the ACCC has not kept pace with its growth in powers, as evidenced most starkly by the highly publicised, so-called ‘oil raids’ last year.
‘While improvements to the governance and accountability of the ACCC have been proposed, they fall short of what we believe is necessary,” Dr Schubert said.
The BCA had also argued that in an economy the size of Australia’s, it is important for the merger regime to recognise the realities of our need to be internationally competitive.
“The reforms to the merger authorisation process will help Australian companies respond to internationally competitive pressures. These reforms, which simply use the existing tribunal structure more effectively, will provide a more commercially viable and certain process,” Dr Schubert said.
Dr Schubert said the BCA accepted the review’s recommendations for criminal sanctions in principal, but highlighted there are significant practical difficulties with the proposals that must first be addressed.
He commended the Dawson Committee for the independence, rigour and evenhandedness of its inquiry.
“The Dawson Committee has given every opportunity to interested groups to make their case for reform of the Trade Practices Act,” he said.
“The process has been developed to achieve outcomes that will be of ultimate benefit to the Australian economy and we would urge all parties to accept these outcomes.”